On the evening of November 4, at the Morton H. Meyerson Symphony Center, the Diocese of Dallas will join the University of Dallas and the Jewish Community Relations Council of the Jewish Federation of Greater Dallas in a celebration of the 50th Anniversary of the propagation of Nostra Aetate as a document of Vatican II. Rabbi David Rosen, international Director of Interreligious Affairs for the American Jewish Committee, and Bishop Brian Farrell, Vatican Secretary of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity (and my brother) will be featured speakers.
Nostra Aetate (Latin for In Our Time) is the shortest of the 16 documents generated by the Second Vatican Council but it addressed one of the thorniest historical and theological issues the Church had faced for centuries.
Pope Paul VI proclaimed the Declaration on the Relation of the Church to non-Christian Religions on Oct. 28, 1965 in the waning days of Vatican II. Addressing all non-Christian religion, the declaration specifically mentions the role of various religions in seeking answers to the eternal questions of human origins, life, death, sin, suffering and moral values, touching briefly upon the spirituality of Hinduism and Buddhism, stating that the “Catholic Church rejects nothing that is true and holy in these religions.” It also calls for dialogue with other religions “carried out with prudence and love and in witness to the Christian faith and life.”
Dealing separately with the Abrahamic religions, and recalling that the Church regards Islam and Judaism with esteem, the document recognizes their monotheism and Islam’s acknowledgement of Jesus as prophet without acknowledging his divinity and the special honor given to the Virgin Mary. Referring to “not a few quarrels and hostilities,” that have arisen between Christians and Muslims, the declaration urges that the past be forgotten and that the two faiths work jointly for peace, justice and freedom.
Using St. Paul’s image of Judaism being the well-cultivated root upon which Christianity was grafted, the document sees the beginning of the Church’s faith “already [present] among the patriarchs, Moses and the prophets,” and the salvation of the Church mysteriously foreshadowed by the Exodus.
Noting the great spiritual patrimony common to Christians and Jews, the Fathers of the Vatican Council sought to foster mutual understanding and respect, while acknowledging the involvement of Jewish authorities in the death of Jesus, the declaration stated, “what happened in His passion cannot be charged against all the Jews, without distinction, then alive, nor against the Jews of today,” and furthermore “the Jews should not be presented as rejected or cursed by God.” In addition, the document decried any persecution and displays of anti-Semitism “directed against the Jews at any time and by anyone.”
“Christ underwent his passion and death freely,” the declaration continues, “because of the sins of men and out of infinite love, in order that all may reach salvation.” The document goes on to state that we cannot call God Father of all, “if we refuse to treat in a brotherly way man, created as he is in the image of God.”
I invite all to attend what I am sure will be an important and interesting evening on Wednesday, November 4 at the Morton H. Meyerson Symphony Center in downtown Dallas. You can purchase tickets at www.cathdal.org/NostraAetate.
Image Credit: Rabbi Heschel with Cardinal Bea – RV
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